I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this parliament must complete its natural life, no matter how bad it gets, as must the provincial assemblies. This is an absolute imperative. Else we won’t grow and mature politically and the system will not evolve. If any changes have to be made, they must only come constitutionally. There are three ways to do this:
1. The National Assembly can elect a new prime minister if the incumbent feels that he has lost the confidence of the majority of its members or if he simply doesn’t want to continue, for whatever reason.
2. The National Assembly must pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister by a two-thirds majority and then elect a new one from amongst its members. So too the president, by parliament and all the provincial assemblies.
3. The prime minister could call early elections, which only he can.
The same applies to the provinces where the chief ministers have the same authority in their respective provinces. With the power of the president to dissolve the National Assembly and of governors to dissolve their provincial assemblies gone, these are the only constitutional routes available.
The ‘Deep State’, as the Americans call it, must keep its hands off. If it cannot, let it first show if it has any realistic solutions to our deep problems. However, if it can’t help intervening and then follows the same old Standard Operating Procedure, or apply what is called the ‘Kakar Formula’ or copy some other country’s failed model, it would be doing us no service at all. It should realize that all such nostrums have proved to be so much humbug. Pakistan will remain frozen in time, like a yoyo oscillating between civilian and Deep State rule. It can serve Pakistan’s interests best by laying-off as much as possible.
Test this system to its limit, no matter how dire it gets. This is the only way the system can correct itself, if indeed it contains a self-correcting gene. If it cannot, let it fall flat on its face by itself. Don’t push it. If you do, you will make a martyr of it and unnecessarily prolong its life, as we have already done many times. If it contains any inherent life and relevance, it will improve. If it does not, it will fail, but it will fail by itself, not be forced to seem to have failed. We have aborted the people’s learning experience repeatedly and paid dearly for it. Let the people learn and decide for themselves whether they like this constitution or they want something different. Let them decide whether they want this political system or that. Let them decide which politicians and political parties are good and which are bad. Let them decide what democracy really means. And let them strive towards it. It is only through experience, and mostly through bitter experience, that human beings learn – but only if you don’t keep aborting that learning process.
The usual problems associated with civilian rule – corruption verging on loot and a total absence of governance – were to be expected, no matter which party or parties formed the government. No surprises here. This is in the nature of the governments this system will throw up in a largely feudal country with an agrarian economy.
The new problem is the president: powerless though he may now be, he is also the co-Chairperson of the ruling party. That is where he derives real power from and that is what is holding the prime minister and his cabinet hostage, for fear that if they don’t comply with the president’s wishes they risk not getting party tickets come the next elections. If Mr. Zardari is forced out of the presidency, he will still continue to wield his real power over the executive. The change will only be cosmetic. If the courts rule that he cannot hold dual offices (albeit one is private and without profit) he will hit back and hit back hard. He might force a vote in the National Assembly that the executive order of the prime minister reinstating the Supreme Court judges was invalid. The cute argument that they were never thrown out of office in the first place may prove to be just so much sophistry. So let’s be careful, lest we force the Deep State in.
Rational pragmatism demands that the judges must decide how far to go and which is more important – Pakistan or the constitution? The time to amputate a limb to save the body, as Abraham Lincoln said, has not yet come. Our pseudo analysts keep referring to Article 190; I don’t see how it provides for the Supreme Court to order the army to intervene. The justices should know that even if the Deep State follows the so-called Bangladesh Model – which is unconstitutional anyway – they could be its earliest victims.
A frustrated, cynical people ask: will the army save us when there is nothing left to save? Did it save us in the past or just gave us breathing space and left us back at square one? And why did you the people elect this assembly in the first place? Don’t duck the question by saying that you didn’t vote. That is terrible. Our responsibility is collective regardless of which way a particular person voted or didn’t vote at all. Now we have to learn our lessons so that we don’t make the same mistakes again – hopefully.
The Deep State is a state within a state, very much like the Khwaraji concept. Here the state within largely comprises the army, the ISI and the USA with its intelligence, defense and official and unofficial security organs. The army should know that even if it is forced to intervene, directly or indirectly, by the Deep State, America may support it covertly but will oppose it overtly for hypocritical appearances sake, with economic sanctions imposed. That is in its nature. A bankrupt treasury and an economy near collapse will not be able to withstand the strain and we will fall either totally in America’s lap or the many laps religious extremist groups with each carving out his own warlord-like fief. Therein lie the seeds of disintegration. Think about it.
(Humayun Gohar is a free lance writer and an analyst).